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Hola! and welcome

Bill Bolloten and Tim Spafford help you to offer a warm reception to pupils from Colombia

Columbians have been arriving in Britain since the 1960s as migrant workers, and since the civil war in their home country in the 1980s as refugees and asylum-seekers. Many work in the catering industry.

Colombians make up one of the largest Latin American communities and there are now an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 in the UK. There are significant groups in areas of London, including Elephant and Castle, Brixton, Stockwell and Newham, but also in Newcastle, Sunderland and Manchester.


Spanish is the official language, and Colombians speak a traditional form of Castilian Spanish that differs slightly in pronunciation from European Spanish. Local terminology or "colombianismos" are common. There are also 200 indigenous languages. Guajiro people, for example, speak Arawak, and some Arawakian words are now part of the English language - for example, "canoe", "tobacco" and "hammock".

Colombians use the Spanish naming system - personal name followed by the father's family name and then the mother's family name. For instance, if a boy is called Luis Jimenez Gonzales, it means his father's family name is Jimenez and his mother's family name is Gonzales. He would usually be called Luis Jimenez.

About 95 per cent of Colombians are Roman Catholic, but in recent years many have joined other churches, including Calvinist, Mormon, Anglican, Lutheran, and Jehovah's Witness.


Education is well regarded and even the less well-off try to complete as much schooling as possible. School is compulsory between five and 15. The primary years are from six to 12. Most attend primary school, but fewer than 60 per cent attend secondary school as poor families often want older children to earn. Some in rural areas have no choice as there are no schools in their region.

Secondary education starts with a "basic cycle" lasting four years. At 16, pupils can specialise at a vocational school or study specialised courses at a comprehensive. Those from wealthier families are likely to attend private secondaries.

Next month: Albania


English - Spanish

Hello - Hola

Good morning - Buenos dias

What is your name? - Como te llamas?

My name is... Mi nombre es...

Thank you - Gracias

Come here please - Ven aqui por favor

Put your hand up - Levanta la mano

Do you understand? - Comprendes?

Can you write about - Quieres escribir sobre

your life in Colombia? tu vida en Colombia?


* Look for ways to get Colombian children to use their knowledge of Spanish. This will support their acquisition of English and help them to understand new concepts.

* Be aware that some Colombian children may have left their country because of violence and human rights abuses. They may need time to adjust to their new surroundings.

* Some children attend Columbian school and take part in community activities at weekends, especially sport and musical activities. Football tournaments are particularly common.

* Colombian families speak Spanish at home. When communicating with the school, some parents may need the support of an interpreter and may need to have letters translated.


* Words for school: EnglishSpanish (Mantra)

An illustrated dictionary of essential words for school. See:

* For an online English-Spanish dictionary, see www.enchantedlearning.comspanish The site has a particularly useful English-Spanish picture dictionary for children.

* StoryPlace:

This site offers interactive stories for children in Spanish and English.

* www.eduplace.combil offers a range of bilingual English-Spanish resources and contains links to a wide range of websites with bilingual curriculum activities.

* For a Spanish-English maths dictionary, see www.math2.orgmathspanisheng-spa.htm

The site offers a comprehensive bilingual dictionary of mathematical vocabulary.

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